(Winter & Winter/Birdland)
This extraordinary album is the most thorough integration of jazz, African and classical elements I have heard, with the end result as visceral as flamenco singing or Hound Dog Taylor’s guitar. The trio consists of Ernst Reijseger (cello, voice), Harmen Fraanje (piano) and Mola Sylla (vocals, m’bira, xalam, kongoma, percussion). The latter, a Netherlands-based Senegalese musician, hugely expands the already voluminous sonic and musical palette at the disposal of the others, who have major credits across jazz, improvisation and contemporary classical music.
Sylla’s voice is as potent, arresting, and moving as any you will hear in any idiom, and the fact that sometimes it comes roaring across the most polite braids of cello and piano only increases its impact.
But then Reijseger’s cello is capable of equally powerful statements, and Fraanje’s piano is the shape-shifting foundation of the music, as well as providing lyrical counterpoints to the others’ emotional shredding machines.
All three contribute compositions, in addition to which they improbably perform Puccini’s E lucevan le stelle (from Tosca), with Reijseger’s cello conveying all the gripping drama of that beloved melody.
Ticking one final box the album also has exceptional three-dimensional stereo imaging, and a richness to such sounds as Sylla’s shakers and thumb-pianos that makes them leap from the speakers and draw you deep into the thickets of the music.